The ‘Masked Marvel Murder’ — Part 8

David Bacon, Harvard Hasty Pudding

David Bacon, seven years before he was killed, in a publicity photo for the Hasty Pudding show at Harvard.

In case you just tuned in, we are looking at the unsolved Sept. 12, 1943, killing of actor David G.G. Bacon.

And here he is, before he went to Hollywood, then known as Gaspar G. Bacon, left, with John Roosevelt and Wallace Beery in an undated photo of a Hasty Pudding show at Harvard.

Again, thanks to regular L.A. Daily Mirror reader Steven Bibb for this photo, which appeared in an unidentified newspaper with a feature story by Peter Levins. Levins wrote a series of stories in the late 1940s titled “Album of Famous Mysteries.” Among other places, Levins’ stories appeared in the American Weekly, distributed with the Chicago Sunday Herald-American. Here’s a sample from 1947.

The “Masked Marvel Murder” Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7


And here we find an even better version of the photograph. Notice that some artist painted out two of the people in the picture. Newspapers were shameless about heavy retouching in the old days.

Let’s start digging.

As nearly as I can determine, this is the 1936 production “The Lid’s Off,” by Arnett McKennan,  Class of 1937; Sturgis Warner, Class of 1937; and Robert Terrall Class of 1936 and directed by Arthur Hurley.

According to a 1937 article in the Harvard Crimson, Hurley had years of practice in turning men into women. The Crimson said:

His trick is to show the players’ femininity by costume and a few gestures with the hips and hands rather than by a fakey voice.

Just to compare, here’s a photo published March 1, 1936, in the Portsmouth (Ohio) Times:

March 1, 1936, John Roosevelt, Wallace Beery

Yes, indeed, our mystery photo is from the 1936 production, which opened March 24.

Further research shows that Bacon also appeared in the 1935 production, “Foemen of the Yard’ (a play on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta).  The Harvard Crimson noted: “Gaspar Bacon, as Yankee Joe, brought forth great admiration for his clever dancing in the radium paint number.” (Radium paint? The poor fellow).

As for our mystery photo and production, according to the Harvard Crimson of March 24, 1936, Gaspar G. Bacon Jr., Class of 1938, performed the “outstanding hit number of the evening,” “Zulu Lulu” with William M. Hunt II, Class of 1936.

And Bacon was a standout, according to the Crimson:

Gasper G. Bacon, Jr. ’37, cast in the role of Mrs. Hoopercliffe, ably brings to life a scatter-brained flighty matron, who manages in her own inimitable style the various baby benefits which run all through the play.

To be sure, the Hasty Pudding show is known for having the female parts played by men in drag.

Here is Cammann Newberry, the nephew of a former senator from Michigan, in the “The Lid’s Off,” in the Kingston Daily Freeman, March 14, 1936. Newberry appeared “the lavish rumba spectacle ‘Don’t Tell Miguel,’ ” the Crimson said.


And here’s another photo of “The Lid’s Off,” showing Roosevelt, center, with James A. Ford, left, and John M. Graham, from the April 5, 1936, Oakland Tribune.

Oakland Tribune, April 5, 1936, Hasty Pudding

Bacon was also involved in the 1937 production, “Come Across,” the Crimson said:

There are songs. These were written by Cammann Newberry, ’37, Benjamin Welles, ’38, and Gaspar Bacon, Jr., ’37, and very well written, too. The title piece, “Wake Up and Swing”, and “There’s No Wolf Around My Door”, might fairly safely have modest success predicted for them in the great outer world. Welles and Bacon have established themselves as most versatile artists indeed. Each had a share in writing the clever book. Bacon did some of the lyrics, and played a prominent role, the broad-if none too deeply-minded Lady Lavinia Doodle. Welles, to occupy his idle moments, played two minor roles and did a suave specialty dance besides.

March 19, 1937, Middletown Times Herald
And here is Bacon, left, in a photo published in the March 19, 1937, Middletown Times Herald. Thanks to Christopher O’Brien for pointing it out.

And if anyone cares to revive “The Lid’s Off,” the score is apparently in the British Library.

To be continued.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1943, Cold Cases, Film, Hollywood, LAPD and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The ‘Masked Marvel Murder’ — Part 8

  1. Eve says:

    The Harvard Hasty Pudding Club is still doing drag shows, to this day! I bet more than a few of these guys did NOT show the clippings to the wife and kids in later years.


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